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A Capitol rioter said he posed as antifa, feds say, then boasted he beat police who ‘got exactly what they deserved’

William Robert Norwood III stands in front of the Washington Monument on Jan. 6, in a photo attached to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI. (FBI)

The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police.

“I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.”

Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success.

“It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”

Norwood was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges. He does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.

Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists.

The texts echoed a popular but baseless theory that left-wing agitators instigated the insurrection, which led to the deaths of a Capitol police officer and four others. False claims that the rioters were not supporters of Donald Trump have been aired on Fox News and repeated by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) during congressional hearings. Yet evidence collected by federal investigators shows that among the hundreds of rioters who have been arrested, most expressed support for Trump and many had ties to far-right groups including the Proud Boys, which Trump had encouraged in the past and which has a history of violence.

Some Trump allies have speculated that antifa was responsible for inciting violence and storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. No evidence supports this claim. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Rewriting January 6th: Republicans push false and misleading accounts of Capitol riot

The FBI says it caught up with Norwood after his relative, who was part of the group chats, showed them to another family member, who alerted the authorities. FBI agents interviewed both relatives and then met with Norwood on Jan. 22.

In an interview with the FBI, Norwood said he had traveled to D.C. from South Carolina with his wife to attend Trump’s rally on Jan. 6.

The FBI said it found evidence that Norwood’s cellphone had been active inside or near the Capitol building on Jan. 6 and that Norwood admitted he entered the rotunda. Surveillance photos filed in the case allegedly show Norwood inside the building, wearing a camouflage jacket and red “Make America Great Again” hat that match other photos he took that day. In the photos, he appears to be wearing all-black clothing under the jacket.

“Norwood claimed that two U.S. Capitol Police officers were waving people inside, and that one of the Capitol Police officers told him, ‘I’m on your side,’” according to the criminal complaint.

He also told the FBI that he helped protect some of the Capitol Police officers, and he denied assaulting law enforcement officers.

But federal agents said his text messages told a different story.

In texts sent on Jan. 7 allegedly recounting his role in the riot, Norwood claimed he “fought 4 cops” and “got a nice helmet and body armor off a cop for God’s sake and I disarmed him.” He then sent a selfie that allegedly showed him posing in a stolen tactical vest.

He told the FBI the text messages were sent to make him “sound tough.”

“Norwood repeatedly claimed that he only attempted to help law enforcement, not hurt them,” the complaint said.

Despite Norwood’s story that he had pretended to be antifa, he and some other members of the group chat also later blamed the fatal violence at the Capitol riot on leftist activists, according to screenshots of the conversation in the federal complaint. Apparently alone in feeling frustration, Norwood’s sibling told the group chat the sibling wasn’t buying those excuses.

“Robbie literally bragged about pretending to be this mysterious Antifa yall go on and on about, and then you say no no REAL antifa did this,” the sibling said in one message, referring to Norwood’s nickname. “Listen to yourselves.”

Norwood also claimed he had “saved several cops from being killed by antifa.”

His sibling replied: “You are ‘antifa’ my guy.”

Norwood responded to his sibling’s complaints by defending the attacks against Capitol Police officers, the texts show.

“The cops who acted s---ty got exactly what they deserved,” Norwood texted. “The ones who were cool, got help.”

“Unbelievable,” his sibling replied.